A man for all seasons
Monday 14th April 2008 19.30hrs RTE ONE
Tomás Mac Nicoláis was born near Kiltimagh in Co. Mayo, 2 weeks after the outbreak of World War 1 in 1914.
In this episode of Léargas we get an insight intoTomás' life as it is today and also look back at the 20th century in Ireland through his eys. He has an amazing memory, and remembers hearing fireside stories in Kiltimagh as a young boy about Michael Collins' exploits in Dublin in the 1920s. He is very active and independent and still has a keen interest in politics both Irish and American.
His secret to being fit and healthy at 94 years old - is reading to keep his mind healthy, a siesta each afternoon for a couple of hours, and he loves a drop of whiskey each evening.
He did well academically, attending St. Nathy's in Ballaghaderreen before qualifying as a teacher in St. Patrick's College, Drumcondra in the early 1930s.
His first teaching job took him to Ballyjamesduff, in Co.Cavan, which coincided with him breaking onto the Mayo senior football panel and he was part of the squad which won Mayo's first All-Ireland final in 1936 when they defeated Laois by 4-11 to 0-5.
That Mayo panel were invited to the USA in 1937 and Tomás clearly remembers the journey which took the best part of a week by sea, and by how amazed he was at the skyscrapers when he landed! They spent 6 weeks in America playing exhibition games and travelling along the east coast.
Tomás recalls the small part he played in the Second World War with his involvement in the Local Defence Forces, where he learned how to shoot a gun in case the of attack from the North, even though he does admit he wouldn't have been much use against tanks!
He married, became a schools' inspector based in Boyle, Co. Roscommon in the 1950s and had 5 children. He moved to Dublin in 1963 where he continued working with the Department of Education, and set up a home in Glasthule, where he still lives today. He also played an integral part in setting up the new school curriculum in 1967. That same year he returned to the United States as part of a Dept. of Education delegation, and met Robert Kennedy on Capitol Hill.
He retired in the 1970s which gave him more time to pursue the passions in his life, including golf which he only gave up 3 years ago, and books.
Tomás has had a huge interest in literature throughout his life, and has collected hundreds of books in Irish and English including a lot of first editions. He still reads avidly and is a member of a book club which meet up once a month in Dalkey Library to review books written 'as Gaeilge'.
His wife Nuala passed away 7 years ago after 53 years of marriage. They had a very strong relationship and as Tomás says, 'Behind every good man is a good woman'. He has always had a very strong faith and walks to mass in the local church every morning. He has no fear of death, and he is ready if the man above calls for him.
Producer/Director Seán Ó Méalóid
Presenter/Reporter Garry Mac Donncha